ODOT Proposes Eco-Friendly Highway Noise Barrier

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Ohio plans to build a sound barrier made out of soil and plants in the state’s first eco-friendly attempt at muffling highway noise. State transportation department spokesman Scott Varner says the wall will be about 12-feet high:

As you know noise walls are one of the tools that ODOT uses to mitigate the sound that comes off of highways. Most people know noise walls as the concrete or brick walls that we put along the highways. And that’s really the only option we have right now. This fall ODOT wants to try an experiment, a research project in which we will construct a “green” wall that is made more of dirt and plants.

Q: And you say it’s like a Chia Pet?

A: How this wall will be constructed, you’ll have an inside base that’s made up of sand and gravel. On the outside of that will be biodegradable bags that are filled with soil and other material; on top of that will be sprayed seeds and fertilizer, that’s where the plants will grow from then.

Q: What kind of plants?

A: There will actually be a variety of seeds used across the 400 foot wall giving us a better sense of what types of plants grow best.

Q: Where will the wall be located?

A: This will be along I-70 on the east side of Columbus near the State Route 310 interchange for Pataskala. It will run along the I-70 westbound lane. Again it’s about a 400 foot wall.

Q: Won’t there be cost savings involved with this?

A: That’s what we’re trying to determine. To give you a sense of perspective, right now those concrete and brick sound walls that we build today cost about a million and a half dollars for every mile. We want to see if something like this green wall can be cost effective. But there’s a big difference in how these walls need to be maintained during the year. Typically a concrete wall is erected with very little maintenance needed. A green wall like this is going to require some on-going maintenance. The watering of it. Making sure that whatever grows on it doesn’t grow out of control. So we really will use the two years of study that comes after this wall is constructed to getter a better sense of what are the maintenance needs? How does a green wall like this survive Ohio winters? This really is a research project as part of ODOT’s growing commitment to be a much greener department. All across the state we’ve put in a number of initiatives to try to be more environmentally conscious. Whether it be green noise walls, looking at reducing the amount of herbicides we use, to using solar and wind energy at some of our rest areas. It’s part of an effort by ODOT to be a more green department.

Scott Varner, chief spokesman for the Ohio Department of Transportation.